A BLESSED HOLY WEEK TO ALL OUR READERS
At this most sacred time in the Christian Calendar,
many the world over will be following the consequences of the recent
deliberations of the world-wide Anglican Communion including the American
Church's consecration of an openly, cohabiting homosexual priest and
the Canadian Church's willingness to perform 'same-sex' marriage ceremonies.
While these two matters have grabbed the world's headlines, Canadian
Bishop Robert Crawley in "The Rock," a Traditional
Anglican Communion publication has explained it is a mistake to isolate
these events or to treat them as "the last straw" for Traditional
Bishop Crawley writes: " the origins of Anglicanism are fundamentally different from those of the other Reformation churches. Forget Henry VIII and his amorous problems for the moment - the split with Rome would have happened anyway - and of course what sealed it was the Papally directed attempt to invade England by means of the Spanish Armada.
The intent of the English Reform was not to construct a new church but to restore its theology and practice to the essentials of the theology of the Catholic Church before the split between the East and West in 1054. Their foundation was the Vincentian Canon.... quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. - ("What has been believed everywhere, always, and by all".)
Beneath this question lies more fuzzy thinking, so before that question can be answered we need to know the answer to "what is The Church?" To many people it is a religious institution, an 'organisation' dedicated to promulgating a set of beliefs about life and death, with rules and regulations and a 'command structure' to facilitate its ideals and purpose - along the lines of a service club but with higher ideals and rules of life, based upon the teachings of Jesus and the Holy Bible; promoting these ideals in all aspects of life, from birth to marriage to death - with the hope of life hereafter.
'Church' is considered by many to be an "organization" - and different 'churches' have different standards, emphases, rules and structures. And in this advanced age, many of the trappings of officialdom have changed dramatically. Maggie Thatcher as Prime Minister, female heads of large corporations etc., etc. (all to the good!) In other words, if the ministry is seen as an officer cadre or as executives in an institution this obviously demands equality of the sexes. Women have proved that they are equally capable in all spheres of endeavour. Therefore women have the 'right' to be Deacons, Priests, and Bishops. QED
It is a logical step from this argument that homosexuals should be treated equally as it is claimed that "God made them that way." However, this prevalent argument falls flat on its face before the Catholic belief in the 'nature' of the Church, which, from the beginning is seen as a 'creation' - literally; The Body of Christ, the continuation of the Incarnation, and not as a collection of believers. The priest is in fact 'Alter Christus'".
In consideration of the above, those Christians
whose roots go back deep into that "Apostolic Tradition" will
relate to the following message the late Geoffrey Dobbs once wrote in
the journal "Home". But Christians of other Protestant denominations
will also relate to the message because it is as new as today, as it
was two thousand years ago - it is ever-new, ever-living.
Geoffrey Dobbs wrote: "Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere of this planet have reason to be grateful to our Creator, who came to live among us in the populous North, rather than in the mainly oceanic South. This enabled our Christian ancestors to incorporate in the worship of the Creator much of the pagan nature-worship which preceded Christianity, no longer as a fearful vision of a spirit world behind the Universe, but in the form of a framework - the Christian Year - which preserves for us that deeply built-in rhythm of the Creation of which we are a part, and especially for us in the North Temperate Zone, that of the seasons.
Those ancient, pagan religions which placed Man so justly in his place in Nature and which led on to a belief in a universal Creator, were surely more innocent than the modern paganism which, after two thousand years of Christianity, denies the Creator, while returning to Nature-worship, or to the idol of human power. Among those ancient religions were to be found, in confused and fragmented forms, all the greater elements of the Christian revelation: Trinity, Incarnation, the sacrifice of the King-god for the salvation of the people, and Resurrection, even though often distorted and corrupted - a fact often curiously inverted as an argument against the reality of Christian belief, even by those who believe in the reality of Nature from which these beliefs arose.
When, therefore, we worship God in the rhythm of the Christian Year, feasting with warmth and jollity at midwinter Yuletide to celebrate the birth of Christ, observing some Lenten discipline in anticipation of Spring, the season of rising spirit but of traditional post-winter scarcity, mourning and repenting our sins on Good Friday, arising with joy on the Day of the Resurrection, with energy on the Day of the Holy Spirit, and with strong and confirmed faith on the Day of the Trinity, we are united, not only with our Christian Fathers, but also, if more remotely, with our earlier ancestors. Even with those who worshipped the glory of the Sun, because they knew no greater God, and for whom every stream, and every rock was sacred, and who would ask forgiveness from a tree before they would cut it.
This ancestry, of course, is shared by our friends and relatives 'down under' in, for instance, Australia and New Zealand and Natal, where the seasons are inverted, where Christmas is celebrated in mid-summer and Easter in autumn. For them, it is a reminder of their origins. But for those, such as the aboriginal people of Australia, who are being continually urged by modern, materialistic, political pagans to return to their ancient and poetic religion of the Dreamtime (or pretend to do so) so that their 'sacred places' can be exploited for money, there may well be a need for a different framework for the Christian Year, appropriate to their own religious inheritance.
One of their number, the aboriginal minister the Revd. Cedric Jacobs, has written a book: Healing a Divided Nation in which he points out that it is Christianity that provides a basis for the further cultural development of the aboriginal people - not a return to their ancient culture and religion. To thrust them back into such a time-trap would indeed be an atrocity, but that does not mean that Christians may not, with gratitude, take over and spread the lesson of the sacredness of all the works of the Creator, in whatever region they may be, which was enlarged, and by no means supplanted, by the Incarnation of God on this earth.
Never was such a teaching more needed than now, when mankind, through pride and ignorance is destroying the balance of nature; but the difference which Christianity offers, and which St. Francis, in particular, taught us, is that the other beings which share the planet with us are not of an alien nature: gods or godlings, sprites or goblins, spooks or demons, but our fellow-creatures of the same Creator's love, our brothers and sisters.
So with Spring, and Passiontide, and Easter upon us, let us not be ashamed to be at one with our ancestors. When the clouds weep, let us thank them for mourning with us for our sins, and when Christ is risen, let our hearts dance with the daffodils!"
The people of this great continent, Terra Australis, in the Southern Hemisphere can experience various conditions at this time of year. From sultry and humid weather in northern-Australia through to mildly autumn conditions in southern-Australia. But whatever the seasonal conditions, we can and will join with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world giving thanks for the forgiveness of our sins and rejoicing and proclaiming with a great shout "He Has Risen!"